Canada’s top-ranking transportation official confirmed Tuesday that her agency has opened an investigation of two fatal GM vehicle crashes in which the airbags failed to deploy, and whether those crashes are a result of the Detroit automaker’s ignition switch defect.
A GM spokesman said the two Canadian crashes were included in its ignition-switch crash figures. The Detroit automaker has said the ignition switch defect, which can allow keys to slip out of position and cut power to the engine, is to blame for 13 deaths.
GM also linked the switch defect to 31 crashes originally, but last week raised the number of confirmed ignition-switch crashes to 47.
Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said that her agency, Transport Canada, received the crash complaints under investigation in June 2013 and April 2014. The agency has received nine other complaints about the recalled vehicles from drivers, although those particular cases aren’t currently being investigated.
In one of the fatal crashes under investigation, Transport Canada found that the key moved out of the “run” position after the vehicle ran off the road, meaning that something other than the defect likely caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Subsequently, the key jostled out of its position in the switch, cutting off airbags, power brakes, and power steering.
GM is under investigation in the U.S. after it became known the company had knowledge of the ignition switch defect since 2001. Its failure to recall the part in compliance with federal regulations earned it a maximum civil fine of $35 million earlier this month.
The company recalled about 2.6 million vehicles worldwide. Approximately 2.2 million of the recalled vehicles are in the U.S., with the others mostly in Canada and Mexico.
So far, the Canadian investigation has not found any evidence that GM failed to comply with Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act. However, the agency says it could take enforcement actions if GM is found to be in violation of Canadian laws.